A few months back, the lovely Vanessa Harbour and I were sharing some thoughts on Twitter, and came up (simultaneously, as I recall) with the phrase "Thank God For Writing". We are still waiting for the hashtag #tgfw to become as well known as #tgif or even #amwriting!
As I remember, our exchange was about the way that writing can be a help and refuge in times of difficulty or distress. Of course, for many of us, it's the writing itself that causes the difficulty or distress--writing is a frustrating, even heartbreaking pursuit at times
For Vanessa, writing provides an outlet to feelings that can't be expressed elsewhere. She talks about the way poetry (not her usual genre, and not written for publication or even to be shown to others) helps her work through her emotions or anxieties, and takes her to a clearer place. For many writers, this is probably the way writing "helps.": by creating a semblance of order out of out of a perplexing, senseless world.
However, my take on TGFW is different...
To put it simply, writing takes me to another place.
Writing lets me disappear from my own world, with its problems and conflicts, and hurls me headlong into the world of my story, with all its problems and conflicts. Jumping into character, being somebody who isn't me, living in a house or country or planet that isn't my house or country or planet, is liberating. Smelling and feeling and getting the sense of this other--often terrifying--world is exhilerating. It's an escape--and at times, it's a sanctuary.
Here's a true story.
Several months ago, I was working on my current WIP. Things were not going well in my personal life, so sitting at my desk and writing was a way to take a break from real-time anxieties. Immersing myself in my story was like diving into a mysterious pool or being hurtled, Dorothy-like, into a far-flung land. The world I was creating seemed vivid, and real--it felt like I was there. So one morning, while I was deep in my writing, my daughter crept into the room and asked a question. She stood by my desk, but I remained in my imagined forest. She asked again, somewhat louder, but I still didn't budge. Finally she shouted--"Mum!"
I blinked a couple times, and looked at her. My very first thoughts were: Who are you? Why are you here?
It was like I was sleepwalking--dreaming--and I had to wake myself up.
"Are there any clean tights, Mum?"
OK, this has not happened since (so don't worry about my state of mind) but it was such a powerful feeling--being lost-yet-safe in writing--that I really didn't want to finish the story and send it off to my agent. I wanted to live in this other world for just a little while longer...
So, that's why I #tgfw. For all its perils, for all the setbacks and disappointments, writing is a safe place to hide...
PS. And yes, dear readers--there were clean tights!